Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and Abi Zakarian on curating at the Bunker Theatre: "fight the power, share the power"

The pair will take over the venue next week and share the stage with other womxn and non-binary theatremakers

Abi Zakarian and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm
Abi Zakarian and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm
© right: Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

"We've been gifted a tiny bit of power, so what better way to use that than to share it?"

As part of its final takeover season before closing on 28 March, the Bunker Theatre has curated different creatives and theatremakers to run the venue for a week – everything from the shows to the bar. Throughout the season, over 80 artists will be featured.

Next it's the turn of Abi Zakarian (Fabric) and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm (Emilia), who decided to further share the spotlight. Each day they will be joined by a new co-curator – Francesca Murray-Fuentes, Teddy Lamb, Sammy Willbourne, Salma El Wardany, Lilly Driscoll and Nastazja Somers – who have programmed workshops, play readings and short pieces throughout the week.

We caught up with the eight curators to discuss the upcoming takeover, the decision to share the stage and their thoughts over the venue closing.

Why have you chosen to curate this Power Share week as part of the Bunker's final season?

Abi Zakarian and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm: "We wanted to try and open up what the space of a theatre is. It can be daunting to anyone without the connections or experience or financial means to get into a creative space and have their work seen and heard. By devolving our power to others, then asking six guest curators to do the same, it would open up the idea of theatre to a more collaborative approach.

"This is an experiment to see how many people we can open the doors to, in particular seeking out voices who maybe don't often get a chance to have a platform."

What was your reaction to being asked to curate one of the days on Abi and Morgan's takeover week?

Nastazja Somers: "I was absolutely over the moon and so excited to be part of something so special in terms of dismantling power structures, creating a space for uncomfortable conversations and for platforming amazing artists."

Francesca Murray-Fuentes: "It came at the perfect time. I was looking for an opportunity for some incredible mixed-heritage artists, and engage the Bunker's audiences with some new voices. The Power Share shouldn't seem radical, but it is – Morgan and Abi are deliberately staking out space for other womxn to enjoy the platform, and it is gratefully received. The delight in turn for me is to be able to offer that slice of space out to 12 additional artists to showcase their work and celebrate being part of this amazing mixed-heritage community."

Teddy Lamb
Teddy Lamb
© Bronwen Sharp

How did you go about putting your day together?

Teddy Lamb: "I focused on trans talent for my day. Some of the work I've programmed is being developed from former scratch nights, and some is brand new and is debuting that night – all of the work is from trans and non-binary artists."

Somers: "I wanted to dedicate my day to theatre and artists from Eastern Europe. I wanted the day to reflect who we are as a community and what our lands have suffered and lived through. This is why among new writing, such as Vera Ion's This Kind of Air or Danaja Wass' Stella, I also programmed Nascendo, written by Romanian Alina Nelega in 1996 and Welcome to Bulgaria by Zdrava Kemenova and Gergana Dimitrova."

Sammy Willbourne: "My genre is horror and I will fully die on that hill! There were two things I wanted to achieve with my workshop – to educate people on the power of horror and to show that some of the most iconic moments in horror have been to do with women. Then we hand it over to everyone to discuss and decipher what that means, and how women operate in a genre that is contained in violence and fear."

Zakarian and Lloyd Malcolm: "We each did a short play for the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse late last year, for a week of ghost/ spooky stories. So when Sammy Willbourne – who's running the Horrifying Womxn day on 18 March – asked if we had anything to share, we thought they'd be perfect for her night."

Zakarian: "My latest play, Mountain Warfare, is also getting a reading on 21 March. I won an MGCfutures bursary for funds to travel to Yerevan, Armenia to research and write about the legacy of the Armenian genocide, which is largely unknown, unrecognised and also denied. It's deeply personal to me because of my Armenian heritage and I can't wait to share it."

Bunker Theatre
Bunker Theatre
© Bunker Theatre

What are your thoughts about the Bunker Theatre closing, and about their final season as a whole?

Zakarian and Lloyd Malcolm: "It's gutting. Chris Sonnex and the whole team have turned the Bunker into a place for new writing, new writers, new creatives – it has a coherent identity and was firmly establishing itself as one of the most exciting venues in London. You knew that the work they put on was going to be inclusive, always interesting and that priority would be given to those without the means to otherwise access this industry. That they achieved all this with no funding is pretty extraordinary.

"So to find out it's closing is awful. To then follow this news with an announcement that the last season would be given over to eight different weeks with different guest curators was incredible – what a way to signal their whole ethos of support, kindness and inclusivity."

Chris Sonnex, David Ralf and Hannah Roza Fisher
Chris Sonnex, David Ralf and Hannah Roza Fisher

Who in your careers have been particularly influential in helping you explore your craft and develop your own work?

Zakarian: "Matt Maltby and Nick Oliver of Pint-Sized have been great supporters and nurturers of my writing – they commissioned I Have A Mouth and I Will Scream as a short a few years ago at The Bunker, which I then turned into a full-length piece for VAULT Festival 2019 where it won the People's Choice Award.

"A couple of directors, formidably talented women I've been lucky enough to work with – Hannah Hauer-King who directed my play Fabric and who I'm now developing Mountain Warfare with, and Rafaella Marcus who directed I Have A Mouth and I Will Scream and who I'm now working on a new commission for the Globe with.

"And brilliant Morgan, who is just incredible in the support, advice and kindness she unceasingly gives me and my work."

Lloyd Malcolm: "Michelle Terry gave me an incredible opportunity two and a half years ago to write Emilia for the Globe and that has been transformative for my practice and writing.

"The directors and actresses I've worked with over the years have also been a source of huge encouragement and inspiration, in particular Nicole Charles, Maria Aberg, Abigail Graham and Tom Attenborough.

"Producers such as Eleanor Lloyd, Kate Pakenham, Nica Burns, Eileen Davidson and Francesca Moody have all believed in my work and taken it beyond anything I could have hoped for.

"Also, all the people involved in Power Share, including Abi – I'm truly in awe of the work that will be on display during the week!"

Adelle Leonce (Emilia 2), Clare Perkins (Emilia 3) and Saffron Coomber (Emilia 1) during the curtain call
Adelle Leonce, Clare Perkins and Saffron Coomber during the curtain call of Emilia in the West End
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

If you could have a Power Share dinner party with six guests, past or present, who would they be?

Zakarian: "Well, Morgan of course because it's Power Share and we've got to host together right?

"Then I'd go for Frida Khalo and Queen Sinope of Armenia. Morgan, you pick the other three. We'd basically be the first act of Top Girls, but in South East London."

Lloyd Malcolm: "I'd love to invite Cher and Angela Lansbury, it would be amazing!"

Summarise your day in three words.

Salma El Wardany: "Poetry. Brilliance. Fun."

Lamb: "Queer. Eclectic. Exciting."

Somers: "Unapologetic. Political. Different."

Willbourne: "Games. Laughs. Screams!"

Murray-Fuentes: "Feisty. Present. Joyful."

Lilly Driscoll: "Come find out."